The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: 2006
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Recommended Age: 11+
Genres & Themes: MG/YA, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, Friendship, Family
If you start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. (Though this isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.
Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter one.
When I was very young, I lived in Romania. Because there was past drama in my family, I had three grandmothers and two grandfathers. I was close to two of my grandmothers and one of my grandfathers, because they lived near my mother, brother, stepfather and I.
The other couple, I only saw during summers. They lived in the country, where there was no indoor bathroom, no internet, no chocolate and no sense of community (that I felt at the age of six).
Every morning, I would wake up from the best of dreams: that my mom would be coming that day to pick me up. But she never did, because she was far away and we had to stay for three whole months with our grandparents.
I felt lonely. I had no one to play with. There was my brother, but just like Bruno’s sister, he was older and we had nothing in common, or so it seemed at that time.
One day, I met a little girl. I was surprised I’d never seen her before, because she was the daughter of our neighbors. I was so happy that I immediately invited her to our house.
We played for a while, and it was wonderful. For once, I wasn’t thinking about going back home or feeling bad about ignoring the eager little dog we had that always scratched my legs badly. I had a friend.
When my grandfather woke up from his nap and saw me playing with this girl, he was so angry I thought he would hurt her. He shooed her away forcefully. I didn’t understand his reaction. Why couldn’t I play with this little girl? We both liked dolls and we weren’t doing anything wrong.
I was six, what did I care that she had a darker skin color, spoke another language entirely and prayed to different gods? It made me so mad, I became a lion. I roared at him, and roared until I had no more voice. Then I cried, because there was nothing else I could have done as a very young child.
She was too scared of my grandfather to talk to me again. There was a huge wall between our houses and I could see nothing of what was happening on their side, so I never saw her again either.
I understand the loneliness Bruno felt all too well.
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